Thursday, 11 May 2017


The Association of Nigerian Authors, screened their documentary titled, ‘DANCING MASK: THE ANA STORY on February 15, 2017 to select audience that also included press people and bloggers.

The venue was at the Abuja Film Village International. The documentary produced by Box Office Studios Ltd was aired in the presence of the the MD/CEO of the institute Mr. Segun Oyekunle and other top officials.

The documentary which was rich and told the story of ANA from the time it was founded by Chinua Achebe was appreciated by the audience.
In order to appreciate the wisdom behind the documentary, we interviewed the President of Association of Nigerian Authors, Mr. Denja Abdullahi and the CEO of Box Office Studios Ltd the producers of the documentary, Mr. Tee Jay Dan.

Mr. Denja Abdullahi, congratulations on the ANA documentary. Whose idea was it?

The idea was mine as I had it as one of my campaign promises. As soon as I got elected I prepared a proposal to the Pan African Writers' Association, which provided funding for it alongside another project, the ANA strategic plan workshop process. Of course I contacted Tee Jay Dan early in the day to sound him up on the project and I discovered he too was already thinking along that line. He gave me an idea of what it will cost and the feasibility and viability of the project and we ran with it. The concept was mine and the technical realisation of it was that of Box Office Studios Ltd.

The documentary in less than an hour seemed to capture the history of ANA using few people. How was this achieved?

The long history of ANA and the diversity of people interviewed and the reels of recorded materials were all compressed into an hour of punchy narrative of the history, achievements, challenges and prospects of the Association.
The credit for that goes to Tee Jay Dan who scripted and directed the documentary. I enabled that by giving him a lot of archival materials and directing him to very resourceful contacts. I also played the role of an executive producer to the hilt by keeping tab on the process, providing tactical assistance, opening closed doors, helping to re-direct focus when necessary and insisting on timelines being met, giving advice on editing and maintaining the integrity of the project.
ANA as an association has been consistent and survived over the years, what do you think is the reason?

ANA has survived because it is founded on integrity and has stayed focused on its objectives. Its leadership and some of its followership have also made a lot of sacrifices. It has also not fallen to obtuse politicking and sentimentality and that is why it has remained strong. If the Association must continue to prevail then members must guard against the erosion of these mentioned qualities of the Association.

This documentary is a huge step in the right direction. What other legacy do want to leave? Wish you luck

I want to be the ANA President that will begin the phase of a truly prosperous and financially independent Association. Two other legacy projects can be linked to that dream and they are building of the ANA land in Abuja and moving the Association into the digital age by digitalising its operations.

Mr. Tee Jay Dan, I was at the media screening of Ana documentary, everyone praised you for a good work how did that make you feel? 

I felt good. You know, after putting in so much work you relax and hope it enjoys good reception. This was why I sat in the back at the media screening, to try and gauge the feeling of everyone in the room. It felt good that nobody walked out of the room and there weren’t side talks either. We had done a good work, I know, but you know writers and journalists. So when everyone said they were happy, I felt good. 

You are young, yet so much experience in film making how did it start?
There are these local shows I enjoyed watching: Bori, a spiritual dance by the Hausas; Shero, a marital rite where the bride is repeatedly lashed with a very thick stick until his body tears and bleed, and; Chali, a local wrestling. Because my father had Polaroid cameras back then, I used to imagine I was a photographer at such shows. Then I fell in love with Japanese, Chinese and Indian films because of how they integrated their ways of life into their stories.
So as I grew older I started nurturing the idea of becoming a filmmaker, but my mother wanted me to become a lawyer or doctor. However, I dropped out of school when I got the opportunity to study film. That is how it all started.

How did the idea of ANA documentary come about?
Sometime in 2014, my partner, Samson Alli and I had a long discussion about the future of our company. At the end of that brainstorming session it became apparent that I was more interested in making documentary films. So at the end I thought about starting with a subject I was very acquainted with. I discussed the possibility of ANA documentary with Richard Ali and he said it was doable, that the leadership only needed some convincing. I chatted with Professor Remi Raji too and got the same welcoming tone.
So I parked my gears and went attended the 2015 convention at Kaduna. I covered the convention for free. That was the first time ANA convention would be documented. I think they were happy with the videos and photographs, because few months later, Denja Abdullahi who won the Kaduna election to succeed Prof. Remi Raji as President sent me a Facebook message about producing a documentary for ANA.
So it all started from Facebook!
Why is a documentary of this nature important?
Nigeria is a country with very poor attitude towards documentation. I mean, look at ANA, the association has been in existence for a little over 35 years yet there is very little documentation of its history and activities before now. I understand that some of the archival materials are in the possession of certain individuals who have seemingly turned them to private documents, the rest have been lost or destroyed. So I think the documentary film is very important because it provides the association with a strong visual portfolio.
Going forward, when ANA approach funders or seek partnership it will no longer appear like mere abstraction. The documentary will communicate the association’s feat and potentials. I like to think that my company, Box Office Studios Ltd. has provided ANA with a timeless asset.

How did you manage a budget of N6m for production of the documentary considering the travelling involved and all?
We managed the money well enough. We travelled all over the country, lodged in hotels etc. So I believe we managed that budget pretty well. I learned that some jokers claimed they could have done the documentary for a million naira. Well, we need people like that to ease off the stress of hustling. So I had good laugh!

How tasking was this?
It was quite tasking. But above all, it was an enjoyable journey, a major learning curve for me.

The End

No comments: